|Location||Breathitt, Knott, and Perry counties, Kentucky|
|Nearest city||Jackson, Kentucky|
|Area||14,786 acres (59.84 km2)|
|Governing body||University of Kentucky Department of Forestry|
The Robinson Forest is a research, education, and extension forest operated by the Department of Forestry at the University of Kentucky. The forest covers 14,786 acres (59.84 km2) in Breathitt, Knott and Perry counties in Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau region. The main block of Robinson Forest contains roughly 10,000 acres, while the remaining acreage is found in outlying blocks. Robinson Forest is unique in that it isn't self-sustaining. No operations within Robinson Forest may be for the primary purpose of generating revenue. Since 1997, portions of revenue generated from timber extraction on all blocks, and mining on the outlying tracts of Robinson Forest has been donated to the Robinson Scholars Program.
In 1908, E.O Robinson and Fredrick W. Mowbray of the Mowbray-Robinson Lumber Company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio purchased nearly 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land in Perry, Knott and Breathitt counties in Kentucky. By 1914 a narrow gauge railroad was constructed, connecting the once isolated region to the sawmills in West Irvine and Quicksand, thereby providing access to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
However, by 1922 the majority of the timber had been extracted and E.O. Robinson decided to donate the land to the University of Kentucky. Robinson's main intention for donating the land was for the establishment of an agricultural research facility that would eventually reforest the land, eventually making it useful again. As a way to transfer the tract, he set up the E.O. Robinson Mountain Fund in 1923. This fund not only promoted land management, but called for the general improvement of welfare and education in the residents of Eastern Kentucky. By 1925, workers from the university moved to the forest. Work then began on removing the former structures and forest regeneration began in certain areas. The first forester, C.H. Burrage, spent several years mapping the forests boundaries and fire protection.
From 1933 to 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps was involved in many projects within the forest including: building bridges, fire towers, and fire breaks; installing telephone lines; establishing tree plantations; doing timber stand improvements; and improving roads. They also removed American chestnuts that had been killed by the chestnut blight. This logs were then used in 1939 by the National Youth Authority to build the cabins and other facilities on present-day Boardinghouse Branch. In 1947, the forest also became a wildlife restoration area. White-tailed deer, Wild Turkey, and Ruffed Grouse were successfully stocked.
In 1970, the University of Kentucky's Department of Agriculture was established, creating new interest in forestry and water quality. Today, Robinson Forest serves as one of the largest educational forests east of the Mississippi River.
Since the 1960s, the University of Kentucky has had plans to both mine and log portions of the forest. It is important to note that the main 10,000 acre block has been designated as lands unsuitable to mining, and as a result is protected from mining operations. In the 1990s, the university harvested about one-quarter of the forest and leased the mineral rights on one of the outlying blocks. In 2003, a surface mining project was proposed but failed with an expected revenue of $50 million. The University approved a timber harvesting research project in 2004. Despite protests, this project was established to monitor effects of harvesting practices on stream quality.
- Robinson Scholars Program - About us Retrieved on 2010-07-17
- A History of Robinson Forest Retrieved on 2010-07-17
- Past and Present Uses of Robinson Forest Retrieved on 2010-07-17
- Robinson Forest Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on 2010-07-17
- Straka, Thomas (July 1, 2010). "Public Outcry Increasingly Becoming Safeguard of University Forests". Planning For Higher Education.